The series focuses mainly on the newlyweds Paul Buchman, a documentary film maker, and Jamie Stemple Buchman, a public relations specialist as they deal with everything from humorous daily minutiae to major struggles. Near the end of the show's run, the couple have a baby daughter, whom they name Mabel.
Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser were paid $1 million per episode for the last season (with their contracts calling for them to be paid equally). However, ratings fell sharply that year as the series was shuffled away from its Tuesday slot to prop up a fledgling Monday night line-up of comedies on NBC. The final episode of the series was "The Final Frontier".
The show's theme song, "Final Frontier", was composed by Reiser and Don Was. The theme was originally performed by Andrew Gold, but a version performed by Anita Baker made its debut at the beginning of the sixth season. Baker's version was used on several episodes of the last two seasons, in addition to Gold's version, and appears on the show's soundtrack album. Gold's version is available on the collection Thank You for Being a Friend: The Best of Andrew Gold.
Cast and characters
Paul Reiser as Paul Buchman (born April 19, 1962), a filmmaker. After attending the New York University Film School, he struggled for recognition before finally succeeding in filmmaking in New York City. He and his family reside in Union Square.
Helen Hunt as James "Jamie" Buchman (née Stemple, born February 19, 1963), the younger daughter of Gus and Theresa Stemple. After seven boyfriends at Yale University, she met Paul Buchman at a New York newsstand by stealing his copy of The New York Times with an implausible excuse. Her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law is an ongoing source of jokes on the show.
Maui as Murray, the Buchmans' collie mix dog. He was a puppy when Paul found him, and Paul met Jamie while walking him. He sometimes chases an invisible mouse, and often ends up crashing into the bedroom wall. In a later episode, Jamie does discover the "real" mouse that Murray has been chasing. In the two-part series finale, The Final Frontier, adult Mabel says that Murray died when she was six, but she was not told until she was twelve. Twice voted the most popular dog by the readers of TV Guide, Murray is loyal and endearing while being very laid back and a bit thick-skulled. Maui was originally found in a Castaic, California, animal shelter by noted Hollywood animal trainer Boone Narr. Maui weighed 58 pounds and was primarily trained by Betty Linn. His first assignments came in TV commercials and as the backup for the top dog in the feature film "Bingo."
Anne Ramsay as Lisa Stemple, Jamie's older sister. Lisa has unfathomable psychological issues. Jamie is referred to as "Stella" in a book written by Lisa's therapist: "It was Stella's overprotectiveness that suffocated her ability to relate to others, and tethered her to a lifetime of insecurity and neurosis." After an envious rage, she blames Jamie for all of her problems in an interview with her shrink that becomes a chapter of a book called "Manics". With no place else to go, she does her laundry at Paul and Jamie's apartment while scavenging through her sister's clothes and food. Every visit from her parents triggers her eating disorder. In between bouts of weirdness, she still cares deeply for Paul and Jamie and is often trusted to house sit for them, usually with unfortunate results.
Leila Kenzle as Fran Devanow, Jamie's best friend. She is the regional vice president at Farrer-Gantz Public Relations who hired Jamie as her assistant. Near 1989, Fran quits Farrer-Gantz to spend time with her five-year-old son, Ryan, and husband, Mark. Jamie is then promoted to Fran's position. Fran and Mark's relationship lasts 10 years, and their separation shocks Jamie and Paul. After divorcing Mark, Fran returns to her old position at Farrer-Gantz, since Jamie had quit, but she, too, eventually quits and goes into business with Jamie. Fran and Mark eventually reconcile.
John Pankow as Ira Buchman, Paul's cousin. He first appears in the episode "The Wedding Affair". Ira is from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. He worked for Paul's father, Burt, at Buchman's Sporting Goods. Paul and Ira have a close friendship, but their hidden rivalry came out when Ira took ownership of Buchman's Sporting Goods upon Burt's retirement. Even so, he frequently appears as loving and supportive towards Paul and Jamie.
Cynthia Harris as Sylvia Buchman, Paul's mother. Sylvia almost always gives Jamie a hard time, but occasionally does show kindness towards her daughter-in-law.
Louis Zorich as Burt Buchman, Paul's father. Burt runs a sporting goods store – until he passes it onto Ira upon retirement. His signature line in the show occurs whenever he visits Paul and Jamie's apartment, exclaiming at the door, "It's me, Burt! Burt Buchman, your father!"
Alyssa and Justin Baric (twins) as Mabel Buchman, Paul and Jamie's daughter. She was finally named when Jamie's overbearing mother proclaimed that "Mothers Always Bring Extra Love." Alyssa and Justin Baric played Mabel from the beginning of season six when Mabel was brought home from the hospital ("Coming Home"). They continued to play the role of Mabel for numerous episodes. Carter and Madison Gayle play the role at a later time. In the season six episode "Letters to Mabel", an 18-year-old Mabel is played by Meredith Bishop. In the series finale, a teen Mabel is played by Cara DeLizia, and an adult Mabel is played by Janeane Garofalo.
Richard Kind as Dr. Mark Devanow, Fran's ex-husband, with whom she is on good terms. A former obstetrician, Mark left Fran and their young son because he felt smothered and wanted to see the world. After returning to New York, he converts to Buddhism and works for a grocery store, although he eventually returns to his old profession. He eventually is able to win Fran back.
Judy Geeson as Maggie Conway, British neighbor across the hall (32 episodes)
Mad About You has had numerous connections to other NBC sitcoms set in New York City, as well as various other programs.
Friends (owned by Warner Bros. Television): Lisa Kudrow played the recurring role of Ursula, a flaky waitress at Riff's Bar, a local restaurant that Paul and Jamie frequented. Kudrow went on to star in the NBC sitcom Friends, playing the also somewhat flaky character of Phoebe Buffay, and for a time both series shared the same Thursday night line-up. While not originally intended, the characters of Ursula and Phoebe were later found to be identical twin sisters. In a Friends episode ("The One With The Two Parts", 1st Season), as part of a night of NBC sitcom crossovers, Jamie and Fran walk into Central Perk and mistake Phoebe for Ursula. Hunt and Kenzle were not identified on screen as Jamie and Fran. In the season three episode "Pandora's Box", Jamie causes a city-wide power blackout in New York City, and the effects of the blackout are seen in the Friends episode, "The One with the Blackout", and there was also a blackout in the episode "Birthday in the Big House" of the short-lived NBC sitcom Madman of the People, which leaves open the possibility that the characters from this program may exist in the same universe as the characters of Mad About You also. All three episodes originally aired during the evening of November 3, 1994, alongside a Seinfeld episode which did not incorporate the blackout premise.
Seinfeld: In one episode ("The Apartment", 1st Season), Paul, pressured by Jamie, decides to sign over the lease of his old "bachelor pad" to the current tenant who is subleasing. This tenant is revealed to be Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) of Seinfeld. Seinfeld, however, twice contradicted this connection, once even featuring a running joke about George's distaste for his fiancee Susan's fondness for watching Mad About You. In the Mad About You season seven episode "Season Opener", Paul, under the effects of Viagra, ran into Jerry Seinfeld in the street, who tells Paul to go away. At this point in Seinfeld's chronology, Jerry Seinfeld was supposed to be in prison.
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Carl Reiner reprised the role of Alan Brady from the 1960s sitcom (a series acknowledged as an inspiration for Mad About You). The episode made several references to the older show, such as Jamie at one point crying and whining "Oh, Paul!" – a signature move by Mary Tyler Moore's character Laura Petrie. Ten episodes earlier, Paul almost trips over a box and says, "Get me, I'm Dick Van Dyke."
In 1997, Atlantic Records released a Mad About You soundtrack. The soundtrack from and inspired by the sitcom, is composed of fun and sentimental songs and clips from the show. The tracks are organized chronologically marking the milestones of the couple's relationship. The album is bookended by the two versions of Paul Reiser's song "Final Frontier"—the first track is the classic version used in the show's opening, and the last track is Anita Baker's jazzy, full-length rendition, with Reiser on keyboard. The 21 tracks are as follows:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of Mad About You on DVD in Region 1 and 4. The first two seasons were also released in Region 2. Due to poor sales, no subsequent seasons were released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
On February 22, 2010, Shout! Factory announced that they had acquired the rights to release the remaining seasons of Mad About You on DVD. They have subsequently released seasons 4 and 5 on DVD.
The Complete 1st Season
October 22, 2002
The Complete 2nd Season
April 22, 2003
The Complete 3rd Season
February 6, 2007
The Complete 4th Season
June 29, 2010
The Complete 5th Season
November 2, 2010
Mad About You Collection
February 8, 2005
Blooper Reel: The Seven Warning Signs of Madness
Audio commentaries: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt on "The Final Frontier" and "The Pilot"
Featurette: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt Are Mad About the Theme
Featurette: Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt Are Mad About the Guest Stars